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The great Vishy
February 12, 2009

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Gundappa Viswanath elevated cricket, to an artistic spectacle with his flawless batting and golden touch. Haresh Pandya salutes the legendary batsman on his 60th birthday.

'Cricket, more than any other game, is able at its best to rise above competitive appeal and results; it can show its fine arts entirely for our pleasure -- our aesthetic pleasure.' -- Neville Cardus.

There could not have been a better birthday gift than the C K Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award for Gundappa Viswanath, who turns 60 on February 12. By selecting him for the honour, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has actually honoured itself and added substantially to the prestige and value of the award. Not only has Viswanath graced the game with his rare art but also enhanced its reputation with his equally rare nobility.

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    Cricket is essentially a batsmen's game and its laws are also heavily loaded in their favour. Though the game has seen a number of giants of the willow, only a handful of them have contributed to cricket's memorable art and added to its aesthetic appeal and delight. But Vishy, as Viswanath is affectionately called by his legions of fans the world over, finds pride of place even among those few batsmen.

    What made Vishy extraordinary, even unique, was his artistic batsmanship, which was a judicious mix of Oriental magic and mysticism. He was never coached academically, in cricketing parlance, and was the most naturally gifted batsman imaginable. Elegant and aesthetic, Vishy was a stylist of the highest order. Though steeped in classicism, his batsmanship was tinged with romanticism.

    Photographs: India Abroad Archives

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